JG Speedfit Kawasaki got its 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship campaign under way, taking fourth and fifth place overall after round 1 at Donington Park over the Easter weekend.
Despite inclement weather conditions making the two races challenging, both Leon Haslam and Luke Mossey came away with some valuable points, the former taking an excellent second place in race two.
Heavy rain during free practice and qualifying meant it was challenging for all concerned but Easter Sunday did see dry conditions for qualifying, albeit with cold temperatures.
However, it couldn’t have gone any better for the team with Derbyshire’s Leon qualifying in pole position for the afternoon’s opening 20-lap race and Cambridgeshire’s Luke in second, meaning they both lined up on the front row in a confident mood.
That’s exactly how the first race started with Leon slotting into second on the Kawasaki ZX-10R and Mossey sixth, but Luke soon made up ground and on lap four he was just one place behind his team-mate. At half-race distance, it was Bradley Ray who was leading from James Ellison and it was now Luke in third and Leon in fourth.
Unfortunately, as the race wore on both riders slipped back and although Luke’s pace didn’t suffer as much, bringing the bike home in fifth place for 11 points, Leon was suffering with a lack of grip and dropped back to ninth at the chequered flag.
The results meant the duo lined up in seventh and eighth for Easter Monday’s race with Leon the better placed of the two. However, torrential rain, which had begun overnight, refused to let up and the entire race day programme was at one stage very much in doubt. It did eventually stop though and when the race started at 4.30pm, the majority of the field were on slick tyres.
Leon made a superb start to move up to third at the end of the first lap and although Luke slipped back to 10, he soon began to move forward. Approaching half-race distance, Leon had overtaken Dan Linfoot for second and Luke had moved up to sixth. Unfortunately, a tough move by Jake Dixon meant Luke had to go straight on at the Esses and it dropped him back down the order to ninth.
Back at the head of the field and Leon did his best to reel in race leader Bradley Ray but he eventually had to settle for second behind the Suzuki rider who completed a double race victory. Luke regrouped to finish in eighth place and the results meant that Leon completed the weekend in fourth overall with Luke one place further back in fifth.
The team’s roads specialist James Hillier was also in action in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship and with three races on the schedule, the Hampshire rider was able to gain some valuable track time. Having qualified in 25th place, the 33-year-old finished in 27th and 28th in Sunday’s first two races but with conditions again tricky for Easter Monday’s encounter he opted to sit the race out.
Leon Haslam said: “Donington done. Not what I expected through practice and qualifying, I felt like I had quite a bit of margin and could have won both races. We came across a few issues that were unforeseen and we need to sit down and analyse them.
“I felt frustrated about the issues as it was not the team or my fault, it wasn’t just me, a lot of people had the same problem and there were a lot of crashes from it.
“We will look at rectifying that and move on strongly to Brands Hatch.”
Luke Mossey said: “I’m pretty happy with the weekend despite some issues that we suffered in the races. I am leaving Donington fifth in the championship, however it is a long season and I’m sure we have more to come. It was difficult in the changing conditions this weekend to get into a good rhythm.
“I struggled with grip in the first race on Saturday and just had to nurse the bike home in the best position I could. I was just getting into the second race and beginning to get some good times when Jake (Dixon) came in hot and I had nowhere to go apart from down the slip road losing several places.
“It was good to get two solid results and all in one piece. I am looking forward to getting to Brands and pushing forwards.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine added: “It has been a frustrating weekend at Donington as we know we had the pace to get four podiums and have only left with one. Leon showed great pace during the practice and qualifying sessions, but he couldn’t get anywhere near that in the races.
“Both Leon and Luke suffered with major grip issues in race one and again in the second race, which is something we need to address and look into before we go to Brands.
“Leon rode hard today to secure second place and he really deserved it. To leave the opening round with fourth and fifth in the championship however, is good considering the problems we encountered.
“Luke was run wide in the second race by Jake Dixon, it was an unnecessary move in these conditions. Luke had no option other than to run straight on and it lost him several places. He had two solid results which is what he needed after a tough end to 2017.
“We are frustrated as I believe we had so much to give this weekend but owing to problems out of our control we paid the price.
“We will be back on form at Brands and look forward to some podiums there.”
The second round of both championships takes place at Brands Hatch, Kent between 13th and 15th of April.